Lean cast packs a punch with fun but faithful take on ‘A Christmas Carol’

What’s more Christmas-y — Dylan Thomas or Charles Dickens?

That’s the opening question posed by the cast in playwright Josh Hartwell’s adaptation of “A Christmas Carol,” now playing at Golden’s Miners Alley Playhouse.

Thomas’s well-loved story “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” may be required yuletide reading for some, but there’s little doubt the Dickens tale of a Grinchy Republican, er, miser, who sees the light with the help of spirits is the 800-pound gorilla this time of year. (The OnStage Colorado events calendar has more than 200 entries for “A Christmas Carol” or some version of it.)

The scene opens on a Christmas evening at the home of a family of actors. The patriarch, played by Jim Hunt, has just finished reading “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” and professes to have no interest in moving onto Dickens. His grown children, however, are inspired to act out “A Christmas Carol” and, without too much prodding, convince Hunt to reprise the role of Scrooge.

The family of thespians knows the lines, has plenty of props and wardrobe on hand and wastes little time assigning roles and leaping into the action. Lisa DeCaro is a hoot as the Ghost of Christmas Present (on rollerblades, no less) and several other parts. Hartwell plays Bob Cratchit, half of Marley and various other roles and Meredith Young does a fun turn as a batty, pixieish Ghost of Christmas Past and others.

As Fred, the second half of Marley and others, Jason Maxwell brings an enormous amount of comic energy to his roles. And Ella Matheo as Tiny Tim brings a knowing grin and a young actress’s fresh approach to the part.

The whole premise of the play within a play is to stick to the script but be open to improvisation, and this cast is up for it. Under Len Matheo’s capable direction, they laugh and bumble their way through the Scrooge story to its inevitable and well-known conclusion.

Despite the comic takes, this version nonetheless stays true to “A Christmas Carol,” and it swings from lighthearted to drop-dead serious — and even scary — as the story demands. As such, go to this show with the expectation that your annual craving to see Scrooge morph from miser to philanthropist will be satisfied.

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